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Residential School Hockey and Sovereignty in Sport

Our research builds from the wisdom of residential school survivors in efforts to consider how survivors’ stories and insights provide roadmaps toward more equitable sporting policies and practices.



Residential school survivors have unique perspectives on sport that are important to consider in relation to contemporary sport policy and practice. Our research asks how the voices of residential school survivors can help us understand the power dynamics and problematics of present-day hockey in settler colonial Canada, while reckoning with what makes hockey meaningful for Indigenous individuals and communities.


Building upon earlier archival, ethnographic, and historical research conducted by Janice Forsyth and various collaborators, our current research team endeavours to amplify the voices of residential school survivors in discussions of how sport and embodied culture can participate in the resurgence of Indigenous cultures and communities. Survivors’ stories help us understand how to understand their stories.



This is not a backward-looking enterprise, but is future-oriented: articulating what hockey ought to be for Indigenous players, parents, coaches, officials and fans at all levels through the invaluable resource of survivor knowledge.

Residential School Hockey

Residential School Hockey

Residential School Hockey
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Canadian Residential School Propaganda Video 1955

Canadian Residential School Propaganda Video 1955

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Residential School Hockey

Residential School Hockey

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“Hockey was my saving grace. I never ever had any inclination of making it to the NHL in my hockey career—I just wanted to be a ‘big boy’ so that those people would leave me alone. And my safety was on the ice, on a soccer field, or on a ball field.”  

Eugene Arcand

(Cree survivor of St. Michael’s Indian Residential School and Lebret Indian Residential School, from Muskeg Lake Cree Nation)

“We were told we were no good in residential school. But in hockey, we were good. We were just as good as anybody. In many cases, we were better.”  

Philip Michel

Cree survivor of Guy Hill Residential School, born in Brochet, MB and living in Thompson, MB

“I look at myself sometimes and say, ‘How in the hell did I ever get there?’ I didn’t want to be an athlete, I didn’t want to be a hockey player. I didn’t want to be anything. All I wanted was my parents.”

Fred Sasakamoose

Cree survivor of residential school in Duck Lake, raised on Ahtahkakoop Indian Reserve, and the first Status First Nations person to play in the NHL



Wilk, P., Maltby, A., Cooke, M., & Forsyth, J. (2019). The effect of parental residential school attendance and parental involvement on Indigenous youth’s participation in sports and physical activity during school. International Journal of Indigenous Health, 14(2), 130-146. (online article)

McKee, T. & Forsyth, J. (2019). Witnessing painful pasts: Understanding images of sports at Canadian Indian residential schools. Journal of Sport History, 46(2), 175-188. (abstract)

Forsyth, J. & Heine, M. (2017). ‘The only good thing that happened at school’: Colonizing narratives of sport in the Indian School Bulletin. British Journal of Canadian Studies, 30(2), 205-225. (abstract)

Tehiwi, B. & Forsyth, J. (2017). ‘A rink at this school is almost as essential as a classroom’: Hockey and discipline at Pelican Lake Indian Residential School, 1945-1951. Canadian Journal of History, 52(1), 80-108. (abstract)

Habkirk, E. & Forsyth, J. (2016). Truth, reconciliation, and the politics of the body in Indian residential school history. History Matters. (online article)

McKegney, S. & Phillips, T. Decolonizing the Hockey Novel: Ambivalence and Apotheosis in Richard Wagamese’s Indian Horse. In A. Abdou & J. Dopp (Eds) Writing the Body in Motion: A Critical Anthology on Canadian Sport Literature, University of Athabasca Press, 2018, 167-184. (online chapter)

McKegney, S. & Auksi, M. Home game: Rethinking Canada through Indigenous Hockey. The Conversation, May 22, 2019. (online article)

A disciplined game
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